USARAF staff visit concentration camp
April 23, 2012 — By Katherine Wanika, U.S. Army Africa Public Affairs
TRIESTE, Italy – "Remembrance not only obligates us to memorialize those who were killed during the Holocaust, but it also reminds us of the fragility of democracy and the need for citizens to be vigilant in the protection of democratic ideals. We remember because we recognize the importance of preserving freedom, promoting human dignity, and confronting hate whenever and wherever it occurs.” -- U.S. Holocaust Museum spokesperson.
To gain a better understanding of an important era in American military history, a group of 50 U.S. Army Africa Soldiers and civilians visited the Risiera di San Sabba concentration camp April 16 during the National Holocaust Days of Remembrance Week, April 15-22.
Master Sgt. Keith Cade, USARAF Equal Opportunity Advisor and trip organizer, said what was initially planned to be a trip to visit the concentration camps in Germany turned into one that exposed people to a site of Italian history very few people know about.
“This is such a beautiful city and such an ugly part of history,” Cade said. “People often overlook this week, yet we had the opportunity to visit something historical right here in Italy.”
Tour guide Maria Grazia Rizzi shared her insights into the city of Trieste, including descriptions of the waterfront Piazza Unità d'Italia, and the origins of the districts in the city.
Rizzi provided USARAF personnel with translation of Italian inscriptions in the concentration camp exhibits as well as her own interpretation of the events from the local cultural perspective.
“Up until very recently, no one spoke of the criminalities of war that occurred here” Rizzi said.
The Risiera di San Sabba concentration camp is the only extermination camp and crematorium in Italy used by the Nazi forces during World War II. Approximately 3,000 people were killed there during its operational years. Several thousand more prisoners from Italy, Slovenia and Croatia passed through the camp on their way to other camps.
The national monument holds an annual memorial service April 29 to commemorate the abandonment and disuse of the camp in 1945.
The tour of the camp included a viewing of a converted garage facility which is now used as a museum. The museum contained artifacts left by prisoners, handheld devices used to punish the prisoners, and many documents and pictures describing the events that took place in Trieste during WW II.